MP calls on judges to lift 'silly' privacy injunction on celebrity story


A politician who used parliamentary privilege to expose football star Ryan Giggs as the celebrity protected by a privacy injunction says judges must lift a ban which is preventing a tabloid newspaper from reporting on a ''well-known'' man's ''extramarital activities''.

The Sun On Sunday wanted to publish an ''account'' of the man's ''sexual exploits'' with others. The man took legal action and two Court of Appeal judges imposed an injunction - preventing the newspaper from identifying the man in an article.

But the injunction only applies in England and Wales - the man has been identified abroad and former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming says the English legal system is in danger of looking "silly" if the bar stays in place

He was speaking as newspaper lawyers prepared to return to court to ask judges to review the decision and lift the injunction. Three judges are on Friday listed to analyse an application by lawyers for News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun On Sunday, at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

"This isn't a secret any more," said Mr Hemming. "We have a situation where information has been published in the USA, in Ireland and in Scotland. People can find it on the internet. The English legal system just looks silly if this injunction remains. It must be lifted."

Mr Hemming hit the headlines in 2011 when an MP in Birmingham. He named Giggs - who was the subject of a similar court injunction - when speaking in the Commons knowing that parliamentary free-speech rules protected him from legal action. He made the decision after Giggs's name emerged on social media.

Detail of The Sun On Sunday case emerged in a ruling following a Court of Appeal hearing in London earlier this year.

Lord Justice Jackson and Lady Justice King did not identify the man in their ruling but referred to him only as ''PJS''.

They said he was ''well known'', married and in the entertainment business. They said his spouse - named as ''YMA'' - was also well-known in the entertainment business. They said the couple had ''young'' children.

Lord Justice Jackson said, in the ruling, that the man had appealed after a High Court judge ruled in favour of The Sun On Sunday.

Mr Justice Cranston had refused to impose an injunction following a hearing in January - although he had ordered a temporary block on publication pending the hearing of an appeal.

Lord Justice Jackson said he and Lady Justice King had decided to allow the man's appeal after balancing the man's human right to respect for family life and the newspaper's right to free expression.

Sun on Sunday editors had argued that publication of the story would contribute to on-going debate.

They also said the man and YMA had put ''many details of their relationship'' into the public domain.

Editors argued that it was therefore in the public interest if an account of the man's ''sexual exploits with others'' was published.

Lord Justice Jackson said both the man and YMA had disputed that ''publication of the story would serve any public interest''.

''They denied that the article was relevant to any public debate,'' said Lord Justice Jackson.

''They maintained that they had not courted publicity about their private life. They said that the various press articles about them were substantially true.

They had been in a relationship for many years. The relationship was an open one.

''YMA accepted that from time to time the claimant had sexual encounters with others. The relationship between the claimant and YMA was one of commitment.

They provided a loving home for their children.''

Lord Justice Jackson said he concluded that the human rights balance fell against the newspaper.

''If the (newspaper) publishes the proposed story, this will not set the record straight in any material respect. It will simply reveal that one feature of the claimant's and YMA's long-term relationship is that the claimant is allowed to have occasional sexual encounters with others. That would provide supplementary information, but it would not correct a false image,'' said Lord Justice Jackson.

''I accept that the claimant is a public figure. This therefore exposes him to comment and criticism in the media.''

But he added: ''On the other hand ... 'kiss and tell' stories about a public figure which do no more than satisfy readers' curiosity concerning his private life do not serve the public interest.''

Lord Justice Jackson went on: ''The proposed story, if it is published, will be devastating for the (man) ... There is also the position of the children to consider. The proposed article would generate a media storm and much public interest in the claimant's family.

''There would be increased press interest in the claimant's and YMA's family life. The children would become the subject of increased press attention, with all that that entails. Furthermore, even if the children do not suffer harassment in the short-term, they are bound to learn about these matters from school friends and the internet in due course.''

Lady Justice King said she agreed.